As might be obvious by my last post, I’ve been thinking a lot about Twitter (and subsequently App.net) in the last few days. With a small amount of hesitation I’ve decided to join App.net, if for no other reason than that competition in this field is necessary. But after doing a bit more research I feel there are a lot of reasons to like what App.net is doing and support them. I should start with Twitter though.
Why I joined Twitter
I’ve been on Twitter for about 3 years now (I deleted my original account in 2010 but decided to rejoin). The great thing about Twitter is that everyone uses it differently and gets value out of it in different ways. I’m ultimately a “communicator”. I like to converse with others on there, respond to questions, ask questions of my own, and share things that I’ve found. I also appreciate the resources I find out about from others. Some use it as a broadcast mechanism. Some use it only as a personal feed and only consume information from their followers rather than publish anything. There is no wrong way to use Twitter (well okay, spammers suck and can die in a fire).
I’ve already written yesterday about what worries me regarding Twitter. They’ve become big enough that they have to find sources of revenue and they’re doing that by tightly controlling their brand and how people use it. There’s nothing new about this and people have been screaming for years about the lack of data portability with Twitter. Indeed Jason made a great point with regards to my article:
@timmmmyboy why is statusnet a non topic here?
— Jason Green (@jasongreen) August 17, 2012
Statusnet, Diaspora, and plenty of others have been trying to tackle the idea of a federated social network platform. There has been little traction in this space for a variety of reasons. Brennan Novak has a great post that talks a bit about those platforms and why App.net should be celebrated. I happen to agree.
Why I joined App.net
There was no urgency for me to sign up for App.net. I don’t use a particular important screenname on any network that I would need to reserve for fear of losing it. Although it was originally a large hill to climb, in the last 24 hours they had no problem meeting and exceeding their original goal. They didn’t need me and I was happy enough to let the market figure this one out. Even yesterday I had decided I would wait for them to open up free accounts or at least drop the membership fee before considering it (They have not announced they will but I’m betting they will eventually offer a “Freemium” model similar to Flickr once out of this alpha period). And let’s be clear, I’m certainly not the 1% that can throw $50 at the blink of an eye (though I am a white, male, geek so I’m not helping their overwhelming stats in that area).
So what changed my mind? The more I read about App.net’s motivations and their goals for the service the more I decided it’s something worth contributing to. You see, even in its alpha form and user can download a zip file of all of their content. They’re publicly supporting open standards for cross-communication and syndication (Pubsubhubbub, Atom, JSON, RSS). They are on record for saying they will never sell user data, content, interests, or clicks to advertisers. They have a working product right now with an initial API spec on Github.
Obviously the promises of a company in its infancy have to be taken at their word. But here we have a company who is saying all the right things at a time where Twitter is doing all the wrong things. And they are backing them up with a working product instead of a lot of promises (*cough* Diaspora). I want to believe App.net will continue to evolve to where my current network will find it valuable and easy enough to switch over, but there’s no guarantee of that. But for $50 I’ve decided to put a little good will behind a company that values the user, values open standards for syndicating in and out, values developers who want to help them make the service better, and has no interest on dictating how their service should be consumed. If they fail it will be a shame, but if they succeed the web will be a better place because of it. That’s worth $50 to me right now.